Implementing Your Workplace Strategy: Lessons from Sodexo

by Elizabeth Dukes on August 22, 2018

Sodexo’s mission is to deliver quality of life services for a variety of industries, including office designs for corporate environments. The global company has an entire division dedicated to providing corporate services such as facilities management, employee wellness programs and consulting about how to improve workplace productivity. One way they do that is by helping organizations plan new office designs. Sodexo’s leaders have seen a trend in recent years toward adopting activity-based working designs, but some of their own offices were dated and uninspiring.

With the lease on their old office in Stockholm, Sweden, expiring, Sodexo’s leaders decided to practice what they preached so they could realize the benefits of activity-based working and better advise clients.

Shifting from a traditional workplace with assigned seating to an activity-based working environment in a new office took well over two years of planning and a few weeks worth of heavy lifting. It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth the effort: since implementing their new workplace strategy, Sodexo has reduced its total space in that office by 1,300 square feet; yet they’ve effectively added 70 additional work spaces. They’ve also increased employees’ perceived efficiency by 94 percent and employee satisfaction from 77 percent to 93 percent.

Here’s what they learned along the way.

Be Transparent About Your Workplace Strategy

The decision to shift to a new workplace strategy came directly from the C-suite, but employees didn’t immediately understand the reason for making the change. Sodexo’s leaders hosted meetings with employees to explain that although they would be losing their assigned desks, they’d be gaining a lot of better things, such as more natural light, the ability to sit or stand throughout the day and the ability to more easily collaborate with coworkers by moving around the office as needed.

Managers drove excitement about the new office by putting up a staging area showing the proposed paint colors, curtains and furniture.

They also met with managers to address concerns that arose among their teams—like the fact that the new office had fewer parking spaces available.

People were also concerned about how they would work efficiently, how often they would see their managers and even who they would eat lunch with.

“With any change, people tend to overestimate how good their current conditions are and underestimate what they’ll gain from making a change,” Sodexo service manager Magnus Löfsjögård said.

Move to Mobile Technology

Activity-based working can only work well if employees can easily move from one workstation or meeting room to another with little effort. Recognizing the importance of mobility, Sodexo’s IT department focused on moving to a cloud-based software model and using as little hardware as possible. They implemented a Kramer installation along conference rooms to eliminate the need for cables. They also added panels outside conference rooms so employees can easily scan a QR code to book the rooms.

Because employees would be moving so frequently, Sodexo recognized they needed to have an easy way to keep track of everyone’s location. They implemented visitor management software so every employee would have a way to check in and easily be found. Sodexo also worked with iOFFICE to create an app that would integrate with their employee directory so employees could easily find colleagues on any given day. The app later formed the foundation for iOFFICE Hummingbird, an employee experience software that allows employees to find people and places, reserve rooms, request service and receive visitors.

“Using software rather than hardware allows us to remodel easily,” Löfsjögård said.

Support Management Before, During and After The Transition

While executives often initiate and oversee any major change, it’s department managers who have the most influence when it comes to actually implementing it.

Supporting your management team is critical, and it’s something Löfsjögård admits they could have done better in the beginning of the transition. Managers and their teams had previously been located in department clusters. While this contributed to silos, it also facilitated more frequent interactions between managers and their teams. With managers and employees now dispersed across a large office, they had to be more proactive about reaching out. This was particularly difficult for new managers and new employees.

As a result, Sodexo created a standard training program for its management as well as a standard onboarding program for new hires.

“Managers wanted to have more control of their team,” Löfsjögård said. “The ones that have done the best are those that have the most trust in their team. They transformed their metrics so they don’t have to micromanage.”

The ROI Of A New Workplace Strategy

The new 200-square meter office is located on a single floor, with work stations arranged along the perimeter windows and furniture and collaborative spaces in the center. The ceiling has varying heights to make the office feel more spacious. The office makes use for noise-canceling carpet, and meeting rooms serve as a barrier between workstations and hallways so employees aren’t distracted by foot traffic.

The activity-based working environment has significantly increased collaboration among employees, reducing the need for marathon meetings.

“We are much quicker and more agile. We can have five-minute conversations instead of hours-long meetings,” Löfsjögård said. “When we start a new project, we are several weeks faster and profitable right away.”

To learn more about how to choose the right workplace strategy and implement it, take a look at our new resource, Building the Workplace of the Future. A Guide to Workplace Strategy, Implementation and ROI.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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